A new $1 million dollar program led by Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw aimed at “violence prevention” is encouraging Floridians to report their neighbors for making hateful comments about the government, a chilling reminder of how dissent is being characterized as an extremist threat.
Bradshaw makes it clear that the kind of behavior which could prompt a visit from the authorities includes anti-government political statements that may be deemed a prelude to violent action.
“We want people to call us if the guy down the street says he hates the government, hates the mayor and he’s gonna shoot him,” Bradshaw said. “What does it hurt to have somebody knock on a door and ask, ‘Hey, is everything OK?’”
The program will also include “public service announcements to encourage local citizens to report their neighbors,” reports the newspaper.
The program has sparked concerns that the hotline could violate civil liberties or even be exploited to pursue personal vendettas, with Bradshaw acknowledging that, “anyone in a messy divorce or in a dispute with a neighbor could abuse the hotline,” and that it will prompt “frivolous complaints.”
That caveat is all the more chilling given the research of Florida State University’s Robert Gellately into how Germans under Hitler denounced their neighbors and friends not because they genuinely believed them to be a security threat, but because they expected to selfishly benefit from doing so, both financially, socially and psychologically via a pavlovian need to be rewarded by their masters for their obedience.
“How are they possibly going to watch everybody who makes a comment like that? It’s subjective,” said Liz Downey, executive director of the Palm Beach County branch of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. “We don’t want to take away people’s civil liberties just because people aren’t behaving the way we think they should be.”
The program is set to go ahead unless it is vetoed by Governor Rick Scott.
As Thomas DiLorenzo points out, the program is also a disturbing throwback to how political dissidents were imprisoned in Soviet mental hospitals, where criticism of the state was deemed “philosophical intoxication.”
Under Stalin, dissidents were sent to infamous psikhushka psychiatric prisons where they were isolated and brainwashed in order to have their political ideas discredited amongst the general public.
It is important to stress that both the First and Second Amendments are being targeted via rhetoric about mental health issues, while the threat posed by one of the real culprits behind violence in America, SSRI drugs, continues to be ignored by the mass media.
As we have documented, while efforts at gun control have largely failed at the legislative level, authorities are greasing the skids for wider gun confiscation by expanding the definition under which a person can be declared “mentally ill,” to the point where harsh anti-government rhetoric is now being treated as a potential precursor to terrorism.
Veterans are already having their guns seized by police off the back of forced “psychiatric evaluations,” while the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is sending out letters to servicemembers warning them that “A determination of incompetency will prohibit you from purchasing, possessing, receiving, or transporting a firearm or ammunition.”
Last year former Marine Brandon Raub was forcibly incarcerated in a psychiatric ward by authorities in Virginia for political posts on Facebook.
The fact that authorities in the U.S. are now pursuing similar programs to those used to marginalize political dissidents in historical dictatorships, albeit on a smaller scale, in response to recent incidents of terrorism and mass shootings – which statistically represent a minute threat to the lives of Americans – serves as a warning of how the state is increasingly citing mental health concerns as a means of eroding fundamental constitutional freedoms.